Last month I posted some plans I had developed for a productive year on my garden veg plot.  I have since noticed a couple of errors in the layout that I have now corrected. For example, I totally forgot that I have a slumbering rhubarb crown in the southern end of Bed 3, so I can’t plant anything else in there.  I have adjusted the plot plan to account for that change and some more like it, but more fundamental changes have also been made.

Version 1.0 of the plan was a bit one-dimensional. I had thought through the basic sowing and planting of the main spring/summer crops, and minor errors aside, this is fine, as far as it goes.  My goal though is to maximise harvested yield from the plot and the initial version left me unsatisfied on that front.  It felt like a lot of productive space was left empty as the summer crops finished.

With some excellent help from some GYO books*, and from the enthusiastic and knowledgeable GYO crowd on twitter, I have made some improvements. This additional planning has been focused on answering two questions..

How can I jam even more planting into the summer plan?

I have a limited space for veg, and planting distances are given for a reason, so I can’t just plant more of the same veg, I’ll just get small, stunted crops. I can, however, take advantage of the growth patterns of some vegetables. I am intercropping faster growing plants with slower growing ones. I’m going to try a few different intercropping ideas next year. The faster crop can be harvested before the slower one needs the space. Here are a few that I’m planning to try this coming year.

i) radish & parsnip. Sown together, the radish germinate faster so show up the row or sowing locations of the parsnip seeds, which usually take longer to germinate. The radish plants themselves also grow faster, with radish being ready to harvest in just a few weeks. They can be harvested before the parsnips need the space.

ii) spring onions with carrots. I’ll be sowing the carrots on a grid pattern so will dot the spring onions in the spaces between. Old skool growers will also tell you that onions deter the dreaded carrot fly, an added bonus.

iii) salad with beans.  salad leaves will grow quite well in a bit of shade, so I’m going to sow some at the foot of the bean poles.

iv) broad beans and potatoes. When I plant the main crop potatoes in their sacks, I’m going to try putting some grown-on broadies in the top of the sacks. I’m not sure if that will work, we’ll see.

You get the gist. The game is to get the maximum use out of the ground – bare ground is not good.

How can I make more productive use of the growing space later in the year?

My previous attempts to extend the growing season have been very limited. I have overwintered onions once or twice with some success, and have tried and failed to overwinter spring cabbage.  With a lot of help from more experienced growers, I have updated the plan to ensure that each square on the plot has something to follow the first crop. I will be hot-bunking the veg so that there is always something ready when a spent crop is removed – ideally already grown on a bit to accelerate the process. These additional crops fall into the following broad categories.

  • beans
  • squashes
  • greens

Taking each of the three raised beds in turn, let’s see what goes where and after what. I should add the caveat that these are just plans right now – I don’t have the benefit of much experience to share (yet). Happily, others have, so I hope this will all pan out roughly how I expect.

Bed 1

Starting at the southern end, the squash plants will probably linger until september or even october, so I am not planning to be able to plant anything there, although I guess I could plant garlic or onions.  The courgettes will be done at the beginning of September, I think, so I plan to plant some oriental greens there, mizuna waido. I’ve never grown this before.

Moving northwards, the onions will be followed by cavolo nero, a form of kale. Again, I’ve never grown this before, but I gather the leaves can be harvested young for salad, or left to grow on for kale proper. I’ll start these in early spring and pot on until the onions are gone.

Once the garlic is harvested, in will go french bean plants, seeds sown a month or so before in pots. ‘Blue lake’ is a climbing variety so I will need to add a wigwam.

The carrots will be replaced with…more carrots. I am reliably informed that it is possible to get a second crop of early Nantes carrots in, ready to harvest mid-autumn. Given my past carrot performance, however, I am hedging my bets – the Firewedge carrots will be replaced instead with spinach, a variety called ‘red cardinal’. Lots of firsts here, I’ve never grown this either.

The beans in the northern end will be hoiked out in early September and replaced with rocket and chard. The rocket I can sow in place successionally, the chard I’ll have to start off earlier in pots.

Bed 2

Starting at the southern end again, as soon as the garlic is harvested, I’m going to replace with squash plants, sown a month before and grown on in pots. The variety is tromboncino, it’s actually a courgette, and can be eaten this way when small, but if left to grow to it’s full size, up to 1m in length, they can be cured and stored for the winter like a squash. I’m curious to see how they turn out. It’s a sprawly plant so I will just plant a couple and train them up a cane wigwam.

The parsnips are carried forward from the spring/summer plan, they won’t be harvested till after the frosts.

Next we have pak choi, a couple of different varieties, sown a month before and grown on in pots. Those will replace the carrots which I hope to have harvested in mid July-ish.

Like the parsnips, the swede are a carry-over, a slow growing crop.

I’m hoping I’ll be able to lift the onions, a japanese overwintering variety, in early June. I’ll replace with dwarf french beans ‘velour’, sown a month before and grown on in pots. The salad next door will continue to be salad – I’m just going to continue to succession sow in that square throughout.

I’m going to succession sow the blauwschokker peas, so I expect one of the blocks of 4 squares to have finished cropping before the other. The first to be cleared will be replaced with more dwarf french beans ‘velour’, I should have beans in September or so.

The other square of beans I’ll replace with some hardy spring onions, sown a few weeks before, then a succession of sowings every few weeks, adding a cloche if needed.

Bed 3

The rhubarb occupies one southern corner, nothing creative to be done there, apart perhaps from moving it out of the raised bed. I have it on good authority that the sweet peas will basically be done by about June, and that a good follow-on strategy is to plant some bean or squash plants to train up the same canes. I’m growing another variety new to me, uchiki kuri squash, a small-fruiting variety thus good for training vertically. I’m also going to put in some more runner and borlotti beans, hoping for a later crop of both. In all cases I’ll have sown the seed a few weeks before to get a head start. I’ll plant regardless of whether the sweet peas are finished, the follow on crops will take a while to grow up and crop. In the mean time, I still have cut flowers for a while.

The broad beans will be replaced with more cavolo nero, same procedure as before.  The other square of broad beans will be replaced with an oriental green, choi sum, which can be used as salad leaves or stir fried.

Snap peas will be ejected once cropping is done, to be replaced with another oriental green, kasumi, a chinese cabbage.

No change at the north end of this bed, I’ll continue to sow salad leaves of various kinds through the growing season, using a cloche to prolong at both ends.  The leeks, being leeks, take ages to be useful. I might be able to dot some fast growing winter greens in as I harvest individual leeks.

So that’s the plan. I have put together a schedule for sowing and planting so I don’t lose the plot (pun intended). That’s worth a separate post in the new year, I’m quite pleased with it!

I’m really excited about the growing year, the planning process has re-kindled my enthusiasm for the veg plot. So many new varieties! I hope I can maintain that enthusiasm, along with everything else going on with the ornamental side of the garden.

I’ll be back in the New Year with more planning, this time for the greenhouse crops.

* I have a few, but have limited myself to the following:

  • Carol Klein – Grow Your Own Veg
  • Sarah Raven – The Great Vegetable Plot